Published 17 June 2020
As food businesses continue to adapt during the pandemic, it’s clear that technology is playing a large role in the ‘new normal’.
As many food businesses around the world reopen to the public, there are questions about what the future of the food industry will look like, and how food businesses will continue to adapt and thrive in a post-pandemic industry. One thing has become increasingly clear as food businesses reopen and customers begin to return: high-end technology is proving to be a way forward in the ‘new normal’. Technology that may have been taken for granted in the past is now playing a valuable role in helping food businesses operate in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19 and makes dining safe for customers and staff. Here are some of the ways that technology is helping food businesses move forward and succeed under COVID-19 regulations.
Food businesses are being advised to stop using their regular menus and replace them with disposable paper ones. While this is a necessary step in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, printing large amounts of menus is not only tedious, but it is wasteful. One alternative option is digital menus. Digital menus are one viable way for food businesses to utilize technology to meet with the requirements for reopening but without the hassle. Digital menus can be displayed on tablets or televisions and other types of large screens, depending on the layout and type of food business. Another convenient method is to have menus available online and customers can view the menu from their personal mobile devices. To make it even easier for customers, QR codes can be placed on tables and easily scanned by devices to immediately display the menu without having customers log onto a website to locate the menu.
The benefit to digital menus is they are easy to update with daily specials, changes in menu items or seasonal dishes. The key with digital menus is that if they are displayed on tablets, they must be cleaned and sanitized frequently as part of a food businesses updated cleaning and sanitizing schedule.
Installing stations where customers can decide on their meal and place their order is a convenient way to streamline operations within a food business. Not all food businesses can or will benefit from this option, but it is worth considering as a possibility. Self-ordering stations help reduce lines and wait times for customers. They also reduce the amount of interactions between staff and customers as maintaining physical distancing while ordering at a counter can prove to be challenging. The stations must be sanitized between every use and a staff member should be designated to this role. Stations must be included in the updated cleaning and sanitizing schedule.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the benefits of contact-less payments through tap-and-go cards. The use of contact-less payments has seen a significant increase since the pandemic began, and even more so now that businesses are reopening to the public. Contact-less payments are an easy and efficient way for customers to pay for their meal while maintaining physical distance from staff and not touching the machine. Food businesses can enforce a no-cash policy and instruct customers to pay with tap-and-go only. It is important that this information is communicated to customers upon arrival at the food business so that they know what to expect. While some customers may have to dine elsewhere if they only have cash, there will be many customers that will be happy to pay through this technology due to its ability to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Wireless POS systems are another technology that food businesses can use to maintain a safe establishment for staff and customers. These wireless systems allow for wait staff to use a device to take orders, thus reducing the amount of pens and paper that are used and shared among staff. These systems also allow for orders to be taken faster, which cuts down on wait times. It also helps to reduce the amount of time wait staff are at a table, which can help customers feel more at ease.
Food businesses can use technology to get creative with how to increase customers and boost revenue. Virtual gift cards are one way that food businesses can encourage customers to support their favorite local businesses, even if they are still weary of venturing out to a restaurant at the moment. Virtual gift cards allow customers to put money towards a meal for themselves or a family member or friend, and this helps food businesses gain revenue.
Food businesses can also use virtual incentives to encourage customers to visit the food business, and return again after dining out for the first time. Loyalty programs and digital discount cards are simple and effective ways to show customers that they are valued and encourages them to dine out. These virtual benefits have been around for some time, but not all food businesses have taken advantage of them. Using technology to connect with customers and provide them with incentives is one way food businesses can adapt in the post-pandemic food industry.
Overall, technology is helping food businesses conduct operations in a safe, trustworthy and reliable way. This is essential as staff and customers can be equally nervous about food businesses reopening. By using technology, staff can be kept safe and the food business can meet its requirements for operating during this time. Technology also helps customers to begin feeling more comfortable about dining out again post-pandemic. It may take some time, but with the right technology and safety measures in place, food businesses can begin to thrive again.